For those of you who are a regular to this space, you know that I believe Roger Goodell to be a) bad at his job, and b) conveniently bad at his the most opportunistic times for the league.
Whether it's the rope-a-dope moves of years past — scandals ranging from DeflateGate to Ray Rice were met with much-discussed and relatively meaningless rule tweaks like kickoff changes and moving the PAT back — or a potential new tool in the box, there's a fair argument that Goodell is stupid like a fox.
First, Goodell is excellent at the first line item of the job: Protect the Shield, even if that means you have to sacrifice yourself.
Second, Goodell is even better at knowing exactly who signs his $40-50 million check. The owners. After protecting the Shield, he shields them with everything he has — his name, his reputation, his integrity — to offer.
Finally, he has stumbled forward too many times to consistently believe it is all either coincidence or mismanagement.
Consider the entire hubbub about the fallout (I say cry-babying) of the Saints fans and organization. That pushed us to a point where everyone wanted Goodell to sound off on the non-call in the Saints' loss to the Rams.
The commish waited until Wednesday's 'State of the Union' and as expected it dominated the conversation. He was prepared and elusive, as you would expect.
But as the questions and conversations on rules and replays dominated Wednesday's session, it allowed some of these topics to get pushed to the back-burner.
There was all of one question about the Kareem Hunt details or the fact that the Redskins signed Reuben Foster, who has been accused of domestic assault multiple times.
There was very little conversation about whether the league needs to develop a deeper pool of minority coaches to adhere to the Rooney Rule.
There were few questions about Colin Kaepernick and the protests.
Think of the other issues that could have been explored, but it was all overshadowed by the "replay-change" conversation.
Simply put, Goodell was able to avoid all of the truly controversial and difficult subject by waiting to address the most emotional one.
Yes, the ripples of the missed call are real and deserve a conversation, but that's a river of easy currents to navigate. You acknowledge that a mistake was made, you say you feel for the team and the fans, and you talk about the possibility of human mistakes across all layers of the game.
It was PR 101, and Goodell was happy to do it again.
Super contest PROP-portunity
Lots of folks already in, and we will list them later today.
That leaves a personal decision: Are you in the Super Props to the Super Prop Bets at the Super Bowl contest?
The premise is simple: Offer your best guess on the following 10 prop bets with a tie-breaker and whomever gets the most right gets lunch on the 5-at-10. Deal? Deal.
To the props:
> Length of the national anthem, over/under 107 seconds?
> Head or tails?
> Total number of Tweets from Donald Trump on Sunday, Feb. 3, over/under 6.5?
> Duke's Zion Williamson points and rebounds on Feb. 2 vs. Pats and Rams first-half points combined?
> Which commercial will appear first, Doritos or Pringles?
> Which will be higher, Trump approval rating on 2/4/19 (according to Rasmussen Reports) or the badges of the longest made field goal?
> Winner of the Puppy Bowl — Team Fluff or Team Ruff?
> How many Bud Light commercials will feature the Bud Knight, over/under 1.5?
> Number of Tom Brady interceptions, over/under 0.5?
> Super Bowl MVP, a quarterback or the field?
> Tie-breaker: Distance of the longest scoring play — FG, pick 6, fumble return, any of them — in Super Bowl LIII?
Who's in? Need entries by lunch Saturday. Deal? Deal.
A day to celebrate
Normally we save the 'today in history part of the show for the finale.
Today's questions is a fine place for it in normal circumstances.
This is not a normal circumstance.
On this day 100 years ago, Jackie Robinson was born.
As sports fans, we have all had heroes for the wrong reasons. Sure, most of us had dreams of emulating those heroes. I wanted to be pitch for the Dodgers and hit jumpers for anybody over anybody.
And Jackie had those gifts to deserve those superficial desires of athletic emulation.
But think of what we know now about what Jackie faced then? Think about his ability to accept his role not only in sports history but in American and world history?
We talk about guts or 'onions' or being able to deliver in the big moments. We respect those guys and heap praise on them for being winners and being clutch and being champions.
The problem when we use words — even if they are accurate or some what merited — like champion and hero for guys who win in sports is that it leaves us with a collection of words that are no where near strong enough for people like Jackie.
Robinson had to deliver in every game, never mind every off-the-field instance that presented itself.
It's impossible to fathom really.
If we had a Rushmore of the truly most influential athletes of all-time, well, here's to you Mr. Robinson.
This and that
— The next 30-for-30 is on Deion Sanders (tonight at 9 p.m., ESPN) and his attempt to play in the NFL and the MLB on the same day. It airs tonight, and is co-directed by Ken Rodgers. Rodgers, who is the force behind the HBO hit Hard Knocks and did previous 30-for-30s "The Two Bills, The Four Falls of Buffalo" and "Elway to Marino," will join Press Row today. That's good times friends.
— OK we have split so far this week on our college hoops picks on Press Row. We had Kansas over Texas. Ouch-standing. We also had LSU last night. By our count, counting those two we are 4-2-1 against the number in college hoops. But, we have failed in remembering to list them here. Alas. Today, we'll take Purdue on the road minus-5.5 against Penn State.
— OK, does anyone actually watch — or know anyone who watches — this "Masked Singer" show? Please share.
— Speaking of the Super Bowl, this story is pretty nuts. A Pittsburgh TV employee who put up a graphic of Tom Brady during a broadcast with the words "Known Cheater" under his picture has been fired. Gonzo.
— While we are on the Super Bowl, if you are interested, here are the commercials that have been leaked. That's not for me — would rather see them live, you know?
We mentioned Jackie's 100th. While we are there, Ernie Banks would have been 88 and Nolan Ryan is 72. Side question: Nolan Ryan may be among the athletes who would have been just as successful if you reverse his name. Ryan Nolan still is throwing 100-plus, right?
We have a couple of questions for you after our column on A2 today.
Other than our prop contest, are you going to bet on Sunday's game.
If the answer was no, if sports betting were legalized in your state would you place a bet one Sunday's game?
Have at it. Thursday free for all.
Justin Timberlake is 38 today. He's winning at life.
Jonathan Banks is 72 today. Dude is aces.
On this day 70 years ago, "These Are My Children" Is the first daytime soap opera.
Let's spin that off and go with the Rushmore of TV soap operas and nighttime versions are eligible too.
Also — mailbag people.